Plans for swingeing hospital cuts as British system on brink of ‘Armageddon’
Health service managers warned of an “Armageddon scenario” facing NHS finances as they draw up secret plans for swingeing hospital cuts. Senior officials have set “aggressive” targets to reduce the number of patients referred to specialists, or treated in Accident and Emergency departments, while GPs will be asked to cut down on the amount of time spent in consultations.
The plans are being issued as senior managers warned that the NHS is about to face the greatest financial pressures since its inception. They fear that when the current spending round ends in 2011, the impact of an anticipated real terms freeze or cuts – coming as the demands on the NHS of an ageing population increases – will be devastating.
The NHS Confederation, which represents NHS managers, will tell this week’s Labour Party conference that the impending challenge is so great that hospital closures and job cuts must be enforced across the country. It comes as two leading think tanks predict a future funding gap of between £20bn and £40bn within six years of 2011. Regional health authorities have ordered hospitals and primary care trusts to draw up plans for cuts worth billions.
In London, NHS trusts have been told to divert more than half of A&E patients, and those seeing specialists, to cheaper “polyclinics” run by groups of GPs. Meanwhile, family doctors will be asked to speed up their consultations, reducing the average time per patient from 12 minutes to eight.
The instructions drawn up by NHS London, and seen by The Sunday Telegraph, order trusts to demonstrate that they can deliver an “aggressive scenario” in response to funding pressures. Under its “affordability assumptions,” already controversial plans to reduce the number of patients treated in hospital are given more demanding targets in an attempt to cut costs.
Sixty per cent of activity which now takes place in A&E departments should happen in community clinics within five years, the document says, along with 55 per cent of outpatient treatment. Thirty per cent of outpatient appointments will be stopped altogether. Managers say not all appointments are necessary, though many doctors argue it is impossible to know in advance which patients do not need to be seen. The number of diagnostic tests carried out will be cut by 15 per cent, while the amount of surgery will be reduced by seven per cent.
Although the “polyclinic” model, to reduce demand on hospitals, is supposed to shift more treatment into the community, GPs will be told to reduce their average appointment time by one third, from 12 minutes to eight.
Senior managers in other regions, who will draw up their own plans later this year, said rural communities faced particular pressures, with small maternity and district general hospitals likely to struggle in the funding crisis.
In a speech tonight to the Labour Party conference in Brighton, the NHS Confederation will warn that the service across the country faces unprecedented difficulties, which require “bold and decisive measures”. Its policy director Nigel Edwards told The Sunday Telegraph: “The NHS has never experienced a financial challenge of this magnitude or duration in its history”. He said improving the operation of the NHS, and treating more patients earlier in primary care, would not be enough to balance the books. Delegates will be told: “Savings only start to become available when we can shut entire buildings, sites and reduce staffing numbers.”
The organisation, which represents NHS managers, will also call for “uncomfortable decisions” to be made to limit staff pay. Under a three year deal already agreed, nurses will receive a rise of 2.25 per cent in April. Sir Robert Naylor, chief executive of University College Hospital in London, said pay should be frozen for NHS staff after that point. If it was not, every one per cent pay rise could cost 10,000 job cuts, he said.
The chief executive said that while he supported plans to treat more patients in the community, he was concerned that PCTs were planning to cut back on hospital services before alternatives were put in place. “The investment in those services has to come first or where do the patients go?” he said, criticising “over simplified” analyses which failed to take into account of increasing public demand.
Dr Laurence Buckman, chairman of the British Medical Association’s GP committee, described the plans as “desperate and inadequately thought through”. Dr Buckman, who works as a GP in London, said targets to reduce outpatient appointments by 30 per cent would put patients at particular risk. He said: “All this means is that those people who are refused a referral to a specialist will be forced to go privately, or go nowhere. This will be difficult for doctors, but patients will be the real victims.” While some specialist referrals turn out to be unnecessary, GPs only asked for a specialist opinion when they needed it, Dr Buckman said.
A study by the King’s Fund and the Institute for Fiscal Studies forecasts a funding gap of between £20bn and £40bn by 2017, if funding for the NHS receives no increase, or gets a real terms freeze which only keeps pace with inflation. Sue Slipman, director of the Foundation Trust Network, which represents the best hospitals, warned of an “Armageddon scenario” which could unfold without decisive action on pay, and terms and conditions. She said: “There is a trade-off between saving jobs, and pay increases, and in the current climate, protecting jobs needs to be a priority.”
Katherine Murphy, from the Patients Association, accused NHS managers of wasting billions on management and repeated organisational restructuring during the boom years of record investment. She said there was no evidence that plans to shift patients into the community would provide safe care. “Elderly patients often require intensive support which often means lots of staff, in hospitals. The need is only going to get greater – these plans look like madness,” she said.
A spokesman for NHS London said its documents provided planning scenarios, rather than forecasts, to cope with a changing economic environment. He said the NHS was investing heavily to ensure care was provided in the most appropriate setting. [Blah, blah, blah!]
British policewoman banned from babysitting for her friend says she would not have any more children
What a horrible country left-run Britain is: Petty bureaucrats empowered to wreck the lives of ordinary decent people. Britain protects real criminals (see second post below) while making criminals out of decent people
A policewoman who was banned from looking after her colleague’s child has said the experience was so traumatic that she would not have any more children. Detective Constable Leanne Shepherd, 32, who has a two-year-old daughter Edie was ordered to end her childcare arrangement with her friend DC Lucy Jarrett who also has a toddler, Amy, aged three. The pair, who share a full-time job, had been looking after each other’s children for two-and-a-half years so both could work 10 hour days, twice a week.
But following an anonymous complaint, Ofsted told the mothers their arrangement was illegal because they are not registered childminders. In a threatening letter, they said the policewomen could be prosecuted and would be put under surveillance to make sure they did not continue helping each other. An unannounced visit was made to her home in Milton Keynes and DC Jarrett’s home in Buckingham earlier this month.
Ofsted rules state that friends can not gain a ‘reward’ for looking after a child for more than two hours outside their home. Although no money ever changed hands, the fact both mothers were able to enjoy free childcare for their daughters was judged to be a reward.
DC Shepherd has now put Edie in a private nursery at a cost of nearly 500 per month – half her salary – and has had to claim childcare benefits to foot the fees. The women could look after the children in each other’s homes – but as both had a half-hour commute to Aylesbury Police Station for a 7am start it was not possible.
DC Shepherd said yesterday: ‘This arrangement was perfect for both of us as we were friends for many years while sharing a job and then we both had little girls. ‘The girls were together all day and grew up like sisters. I couldn’t believe it when an inspector turned up on my doorstep and said I was running an illegal childminding business. I thought there had been some mistake. ‘It was devastating, I was crying all day. Every day Edie says ‘going to see Amy?’ but it’s just not possible. ‘There must be so many thousands of women must be in this situation. Ofsted really need to change the rules.’
DC Shepherd, who is separated from Edie’s father DC James Shepherd now works three days per week and she and her ex-husband take turns to pick Edie up from nursery. She added: ‘It’s been very traumatic. The first week Edie was at nursery it was a big shock she was crying and not sleeping and I didn’t know if I could continue in my career. ‘I’m separated and it’s not in my plan to have more children, but I also feel I’ve been through so much trauma already. It’s just too stressful.’ ‘I used to take Edie over to Lucy’s in her pajamas and would pick her up bathed and ready for bed. I have no complaints about the nursery but you don’t get that there. I felt really happy leaving Edie with a friend and she loved being at Lucy’s house. ‘I’ve now had to completely change my hours to fit around taking her to nursery instead. Now Edie is used to it I can’t change back again as it would be too disruptive for her. But I want other women to be able to benefit from a change in the law and not go through what has happened to us.’
Edie was born in January 2007 and DC Shepherd returned to work part-time two months later as a trainee detective constable. Lucy who was doing to same job had her daughter five months earlier and DC Shepherd and the pair were delighted to have a permanent childcare arrangement.
An Ofsted inspector paid DC Shepherd a surprise visit on July 10 to say she was running an illegal childminding business and faced prosecution if it continued. It is believed to have been in response to a tip-off from a neighbour. The visit was followed up by an official ‘enforcement notice’ two weeks later.
An Ofsted spokesman said yesterday: ‘Ofsted applies the regulations in the 2006 Childcare Act. We are discussing with the Department for Children, Schools and Families the interpretation of the word ‘reward’ to establish if we might be able to make a change’.
To be registered as childminders the mothers would need to undergo training. DC Shepherd added: ‘We’ve thought through all the loopholes and it just wasn’t possible. ‘To be a childminder you need to take exams and make modifications to your home such as blocking up fireplaces. I already have a career and my home is perfectly safe but those are the rules for people who are looking after lots of children professionally.’
DC Jarrett, who lives with her husband Inspector Bob Jarrett has also put her daughter in a nursery.
Mark of madness: British police refuse to show suspect’s birthmark in ID parade… because of his human rights
The usual love of criminals in politically correct Britain
When Tracy Ryan spotted a suspected burglar emerging from the dog sanctuary where she works, she thought she would have little problem pointing him out to police. After all, he had a large port-wine stain on his face. But when police set up an identity parade, they refused to take the man’s distinctive birthmark into account – in case it infringed his human rights.
An officer from the Nottinghamshire force explained that the mark was too rare to be included in a profile of the burglar when it was entered into a computer database. It would leave only a small pool of potential suspects in the electronic ID parade, he said, breaking police rules.
Under laws designed to take into account ‘the rights and freedoms of the public’, witnesses must be shown a minimum of 12 photographs before they are allowed to identify a suspect. These are selected from a database of people who have passed through custody in Nottinghamshire, in the hope that the burglar is already known to police. Because only a handful of people on a database had a birthmark or port-wine stain, the characteristic gave fewer than 12 results. The characteristic was subsequently removed and the search was broadened. This forced Mrs Ryan, 39, to examine the faces of 93 suspects, none of which she recognised.
It was on August 25 that £300 in charity donations was stolen from the Crossing Cottage Greyhound Sanctuary in Sutton on Trent, Nottinghamshire. Mrs Ryan noted that, apart from his birthmark, the suspected culprit was tall and wore a white tracksuit. She also took his car registration number. Police have subsequently made an arrest and Mrs Ryan is due to attend a second identification parade which will include the suspect, who is on bail. He will be pictured alongside 11 people of a similar appearance. But if he has a birthmark, it will still be kept secret. The suspected thief and the other participants will be made to cover one side of their face.
Mrs Ryan said: ‘Surely an unusual characteristic like a big birthmark should help a police investigation? ‘If there were just four or five people on the database with such marks, all the better. ‘I understand police have to follow procedures, but to me the rules are flawed and amount to a pretty lame excuse.’
Her boss John Morton, who manages the home for 30 former racing dogs as part of the Retired Greyhound Trust, said: ‘The police are saying they can’t infringe human rights. But what about our human rights? ‘We are law-abiding people who have been victims of crime, and the police have a responsibility to maximise their chances of solving that crime. If this is the law, it has to be changed.’
NHS dental crisis: Can the rot be stopped?
As new figures reveal over 40 per cent of the population has no NHS dentist can a new review finally fix the system once and for all?
Not that long ago we were queuing in the streets for an NHS dentist, with scenes of hundreds of patients camping overnight likened to the January sales. Now, new figures suggest that many of us have given up, and are paying for private treatment or simply going without care if we cannot afford it. Data from the NHS Information Centre released last month shows that only 58.3 per cent of the population saw an NHS dentist in the two years ending March 2009, with the number of complex treatments, such as root canals and crowns, falling dramatically, by 40 and 50 per cent respectively, since 2004.
Ironically, the parlous state of NHS dentistry seems to have been exacerbated by the very attempt to overhaul it – the 2006 dental contract. The new contract was intended to end the old “drill-and-fill” practice whereby dentists were paid for each treatment they carried out, so the more procedures they undertook the higher their earnings. The idea behind the new contract was to encourage dentists to spend more time on preventative work, teaching patients how to care for their own teeth, thereby reducing future treatment.
Dentists are now paid a fixed contract value for the amount of work they do each year. Work is measured in UDAs (units of dental activity). Dentists now essentially have “UDA targets” to meet each year. Under the new contract, their salaries have not been cut as they had been in the early Nineties, which led to an exodus to the private sector. Dentists are free to choose whether to provide NHS or private treatment, or a combination of the two. While many NHS dentists’ basic pay is around £90,000 in large practices, but in areas where NHS practitioners are few and far between, they can make a lot more.
Around 400 practices earn up to £300,000 a year, shared among several dentists. Private dentists earn little more – one survey in 2005 by the Health and Social Care Information Centre estimated the gap at no more that £800 a year. Most claimed to have left the NHS due to the pressure of working harder for less money, with less time to spend on each patient.
Local Primary Care Trusts (PCTs) were given responsibility for providing dental care in their areas. It is they who employ dentists, and it means that managers can offer incentives to dentists to work in their area, and thus increase patient access, eradicating once and for all the problem of how to get on an NHS dentist’s list.
But, despite these good intentions, the situation appears to have deteriorated further. According to figures from the NHS Information Centre, last year nearly 50 per cent of NHS dentists did not take on any new patients. In addition, 2,000 dentists have left the NHS since 2006. So what has gone so badly wrong?
The flaws are fundamental, says Liberal Democrat health spokesman Norman Lamb. “Many good dentists have become fed up with NHS bureaucracy, voted with their feet, and left the profession. So there is a danger that while not all the NHS dentists left are second rate by any means, we could end up with a two-tier profession.”
Lamb believes that the financial disincentive to carry out complex work is so serious it threatens to “de-skill” the profession and that far from encouraging the public to look after their teeth, “there is no incentive for the dentist to do preventative work at all.”
The public are not happy, says Dr Anthony Halperin of the Patient’s Association.”Simple procedures can end up costing the patient more than before, while there is no incentive for dentists to perform complex and time-consuming treatment. Most of all, the overwhelming public complaint is access.”
The majority of dentists are unhappy, too. One complained: “If you take on a new patient who has not been to the dentist for a few years, they might need a lot of work, and you are effectively penalised for doing it. Under the new contract, whether a patient needs one filling or 10 fillings, the dentist gets paid the same.”
Another said: ‘Dentists are unwilling to take on new patients whose teeth are in a poor state. They know they will be paid the same as if they treated a patient who needs very little work. This is very sad for patients. It means that those who are most desperate for treatment are finding it most difficult to get a dentist.”
Dr John Milne, chair of the British Dental Association, the professional association and trade union for dentists, adds that many complain that “the target-driven nature of the existing contract has made life difficult”. If a PCT has set targets for the number of procedures it expects to be completed, many dentists are left with no time to teach their patients about hygiene.
So what is the answer? Professor Jimmy Steele, Head of the School of Dental Sciences at Newcastle University led the recent independent review of NHS dentistry, which has just published a set of recommendations aimed at redressing the problems of access and receiving appropriate treatment (for patients) and bureaucracy and pay (for dentists). It has been Prof Steele’s unenviable task to pick apart the 2006 contract and put it back together, making it work at no extra cost to the taxpayer.
“The 2006 contract was intended to make fundamental changes in thinking. Dentistry had been pretty much unaltered since the birth of the NHS in 1948,” he says. “The idea was that the PCT would be able to buy what they wanted on behalf of their patient, making better use of resources. Previously dentists had been able to move around to where they wanted there was no ability to fit services to local needs.”
In effect, dentists could set up an NHS practice where they wanted to live, not necessarily where one was needed. “The idea of local commissioning is sensible,” he adds. “Access problems should have been addressed in time.”
The new contract also aimed to simplify payments. Previously, dentists billed the NHS centrally for any one of 400 different procedures. The more work they did, the more they got paid. “The new system, where contracts are paid on UDAs in three bands is probably too simple,” says Prof Steele. “The payment bands are wide and differ depending on where the dentist is located, on their history, sometimes on their negotiating skills.”
Dentists earn one UDA (worth between approximately £17 and £40) for a simple procedure such as a check-up, three UDAs (worth about £75 on average) for any number of fillings (in one appointment), or 12 UDAs (worth about £300) for crowns or dentures, in addition to any other treatment.
“The system is open to misuse,” says Prof Steele. “It is possible to take one tooth out and make an impression for a denture and then charge 12 UDAs which is clearly not as complex or difficult as root canal work which pays only a quarter of the fee.”
Incentives to take on new patients are not having the desired effect. Far from encouraging dentists to see more patients, it has become easier to make a living seeing existing patients more often. One of the biggest problems is taking time to put a mechanism in place for centrally collecting data, so it is difficult to know where and how the system isn’t working.
So do we need to start again from scratch? Prof Steele thinks not: “When we carried out the review it became clear that access is improving, but there is a communication problem. The public didn’t know how to find an NHS dentist. Meanwhile the PCT claimed that they were running plenty, and that all the public needed to do was ask. The public would then be saying, ‘what’s a PCT?’ Better communication could sort that problem out easily.”
Prof Steele is also recommending improvements in payment methods. “We need a blended contract, where a dentist is paid for every person on his list, and also for every treatment he carries out. We don’t want people under-treated any more than over-treated. There also needs to be a reward for quality so we need to get data back into the system.”
While Prof Steele approves of the scheme of local commissioning, Norman Lamb warns that PCT managers may not be ready. “We need to train them better, a lot of them are far too passive. You do get pockets of excellence but many don’t have the skills they need.”
Shake-ups, however worthy, cost money, and increased investment is unlikely. Dentistry is threatened by the spectre of financial cuts, as part of cuts in public services, regardless of who wins the next election.
So while the Patients Association has welcomed Prof Steele’s review, Dr Halperin, a dental surgeon who does both NHS and private work in central London, says: “We are concerned that because of funding problems, once again there will be no real improvement in the dental contract and subsequently no improvement to the services for our patients.”
The biggest challenge says Dr Milne, is to get all political parties to recognise the value of Prof Steele’s report. “We need to embrace it; it is our best chance of providing a dental service of which we can all be proud.”
Dr Milne is also optimistic: “The number of dentists in training is increasing, but we need to make the NHS an attractive place to work. And dentists who have left will only return if the NHS offers them the chance to treat their patients properly. Some might even be quite excited at the chance.”
Stupid play-acting from British border control agency
The unprecedented numbers of foreigners that Brits see among them are no mirage. The agency is not dispelling myths. It is trying to dispel reality. The British government would serve the country better by doing more about the half-a-million “asylum seekers” who have been denied asylum by the courts but who are still in the country. Try to dispel that reality!
At the end of a week in which the government’s most senior lawyer, the attorney general Baroness Scotland, was embarrassed by revelations that her Tongan housekeeper was working illegally in the UK, confidence in the country’s immigration system could be at rock bottom.
So some may find it reassuring to learn that the government agency charged with protecting the UK’s borders has embarked on an extraordinary PR blitz to give the public a taste of what can happen to those who fall foul of fortress Britain.
A series of UK Border Agency roadshows at country fairs around southern England have seen children fingerprinted, pensioners handcuffed and families locked into immigration service “cell vans” as part of a drive to dispel what it says are “myths that surround immigration issues”.
The initiative, featured in Interact, the newsletter for UKBA stakeholders, describes events at the Kent and New Forest and Hampshire county shows in which members of the public were briefly locked in “cell vans”, placed in handcuffs and dressed up as “arrest officers” by UKBA staff keen to show they mean business. Children made “fingerprint paintings”.
The newsletter concedes that “immigration staff knew they would have to overcome initial hesitation from the public” to being confronted by “fully-kitted arrest team officers”.
However it concludes the roadshows were a “great opportunity to explain the importance of our work”. According to the UKBA, at the end of the shows, 239 visitors had improved their opinion of the work of the service, while 13 said it was the same.
But last night migrant support groups questioned the rationale behind the PR campaign. “We appreciate UK immigration officers do a hard job in difficult circumstances,” said a spokesman for Refugee Action. “But we remain to be convinced the way to dispel myths about immigration is to dress members of the immigration service up like extras from The Sweeney whilst running around fingerprinting children, handcuffing pensioners and locking families in arrest vans.”
British science uptake figures are ‘science fiction’, says report
Lies never stop from a Leftist regime
Labour has been accused of fiddling the figures on the number of students studying science and maths, covering up the nation’s skills crisis. The Government has trumpeted a “significant increase” in the numbers of pupils taking separate GCSEs in physics, chemistry and biology.
But a new report claims the rise is accounted for, in part, by the growth in the number of 16-year-olds, while the proportion studying science A-levels has dropped since 1997. At university level, big increases in the number of undergraduates studying science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) subjects are also a “fiction”, according to the study.
The Government now includes as “science”, courses such as nutrition and complementary medicine, geography studies, sports science, nursing and psychology, even though in dozens of universities it is classed as an arts degree. “The Government is deliberately trying to make the statistics on STEM subjects appear better than they really are,” said Anna Fazackerley, the head of education at the Policy Exchange think tank, which produced the report. “This must stop. We must have a sound picture, based on consistent and meaningful data, of what is really happening to these skills in our schools and universities.”
Industry experts insist that Britain need more science skills if it is compete internationally. According to the Confederation of British Industry, 92 per cent of firms across all sectors require employees with science, technology engineering and maths skills but nearly two thirds have problems finding them. By 2014, there will be more than two million extra jobs which need STEM skills.
Ministers have acknowledged their importance and in 2007 designated STEM as “strategically important subjects” to the economy. Since then, they have claimed success in boosting the numbers studying the subjects. But the new report, due to be published tomorrow, said the figures do no stand up to scrutiny.
In 2006, Gordon Brown pledged that all children achieving high grades in science tests at 14 would be “entitled” to study three separate sciences at GCSE. But less than half of state schools entered at least one pupils for the traditional science GCSEs last year. [Not even ONE student!] The percentage of pupils studying three separate sciences barely improved from 1997 to 2007, rising from 6 per cent to 8 per cent. Instead, the vast majority of pupils take a single science GCSE which focuses on scientific literacy and issues that are in the public eye, such as global warming and mobile phone technology.
Teachers and academics warned that the qualification, taken for the first time in 2008, was a “dumbed down” version, needing little scientific knowledge and understanding. One question in a recent science paper asked “why is wireless technology useful?” – the correct answer was: “no wiring is needed”. Earlier this year, the exam regulator Ofqual admitted there were serious problems with the exam and ordered it to be redesigned.
At A-level, the percentage of pupils taking biology, chemistry and physics has actually fallen since 1997. In 2008, 6.5 per cent of students were studying biology, down from 7.2 per cent in 1997, while 4.9 were studying chemistry, down from 5.5 per cent. The proportion studying physics fell from 4.3 per cent to 3.3 per cent in 2008.
University level STEM subjects seemed to be rising. The number enrolled has grown from 370,000 to 515,000 in just over a decade. Even when converted to a percentage, they are still increasing, from 38 per cent in 1997 to 42 per cent in 2008. But analysis by the think tank shows that study of the traditional subjects of biology, chemistry and physics has barely changed over this period. Biology has actually fallen, from 13,923 students in 1997 to 12,515 in 2008. The dramatic increase in science numbers has been driven partly by the growth in new subjects and the manipulation of what counts as science.
The Government’s classification is now much broader and includes subjects such as sports science, forensic science and complementary medicine. Psychology students have been included as “biological science” students since 2003, adding more than 13,000 students to the STEM total. Even students at universities which classify psychology as an arts degree are included.
Britain: University terms begins again, and the Chinese are back
I was in Sainsbury’s yesterday afternoon. Looking around me I might have been in Guangzhou Tesco. The occasional foreigner (as they will insist on calling us, even in our own country), but otherwise wall-to-wall the sons and daughters of the Middle Kingdom. And then I remembered; it is the end of September, and I live in a small university town.
Yes, around this time of year we go Chinese. I merely observe; I have no racist reactions, and nor does anyone else. Firstly, this is the era of globalisation; virtually a quarter of the world’s population is Chinese, and why shouldn’t that be the case here? Secondly, these are all bright and valuable undergraduate and postgraduate students; they’re not on the dole, and if you get beaten up late at night it won’t be one of them who does it. No doubt they keep our university afloat with the fees they pay. (Economists often complain about the high Chinese savings rate; I wonder if they realise what a large proportion of those savings go to British and American universities, to educate the savers’ grandchildren.)
The strange thing is that Chinese universities are riding high in the world rankings. Only the very best UK/US places of learning can compete with the best of Beijing and Shanghai. So why are so many Chinese parents so keen to send their kids to our universities?
Partly, of course, because the top universities in Beijing and Shanghai are not so easy to get into. The word is that it doesn’t exactly depend on school results. Natives of those cities enjoy a built-in advantage, and good connections also help. Chinese who don’t enjoy these advantages feel better off sending their kids to Western universities than second-rate Chinese ones. Western education, you see, still carries a certain innate cachet. In a society where “face” is everything, it’s interesting to see that our products are seen as automatically superior, however debased we may sometimes feel it is. The Chinese theoretically believe their culture is superior to all others; but they are voting with their feet, or at least their children’s and grandchildren’s feet – and long may it remain so.
Is the definition of autism too broad? NHS claims one in 100 adults is autistic in some form
One per cent of the adult population is suffering from a form of autism, research has revealed. The study – the first of its kind – found that autism and related conditions such as Asperger’s syndrome, are as common in adults as in children. The finding is important because it had been suggested that the measles, mumps and rubella combination jab fuelled a rise in cases of the disorder after its introduction in the early Nineties.
If this were the case, rates of autism would be higher in children and young adults than in older age groups. But with the rate similar across all age groups, it seems that any rise in cases of autism in children can be attributed to better diagnosis and greater awareness of the condition.
As with children, the disorder is much more often found in males than in females. The Department of Health-funded research also found rates to be higher among single people and among men who haven’t been to university.
But the findings are likely to be seized upon as evidence that the definition of autism is now too broad. In the 1990s there was a huge surge in the number of autism cases reported in children, after a wider diagnostic definition of the condition was introduced.
The study found no evidence that rates of autism are on the rise and failed to find a link between the mumps, measles and rubella (MMR) vaccine and the condition. If there was a link with MMR, people aged in their early 20s or younger would expect to have higher rates of autism because they have had the jab, the report said. However, Jackie Fletcher, from vaccination awareness group Jabs, said: ‘We’re concerned the Department of Health is extrapolating from surveys not designed to find vaccine damage to bolster the uptake of MMR.’
Although rates of autism in children have been widely researched, the latest study is the first to attempt to set a figure for adults. Little was known about how autism affected people over the course of a lifetime.
1) Classic autism: The most severe form. Problems relating to people. They can be hypersensitive to their environment and be upset by certain colours and shapes. Often cling to rituals.
2) Asperger’s syndrome: Milder form. Can be socially awkward and lack empathy.
3) Nonspecific pervasive developmental disorder (PDD-NOS): Shows some but not all the symptoms of classic autism
4) Rett syndrome: Rare condition that usually affects girls and is marked by poor head growth. May have poor verbal skills and make repetitive movements.
5) Childhood disintegrative disorder: Develops in children who previously seemed perfectly normal. Can stop talking and socialising.
Researchers asked more than 7,000 men and women 20 questions designed to pick up traits linked to autism and related conditions. Topics covered included attention to detail, ability to handle social interactions and ability to read emotions. After several hundred were put through a second, more stringent, assessment, the researchers estimated 72 people of those tested had autism or a related condition. If the results were extrapolated across the population as a whole, an estimated 1 per cent of adults would fall into the category. Three studies of children in England have come up with a similar rate, although other research has theorised the number numbers could be as high as one in 60.
Tim Straughan, of the NHS Information Centre, which carried out the study, said: ‘While the sample size was small and any conclusions need to be tempered with caution, the report suggests, despite popular perceptions, rates of autism are not increasing.’
Worryingly, the study also found men and women with the condition are no more likely to use services for those with mental or emotional problems than other adults. Mark Lever, of the National Autistic Society, said services and support for adults with autism were ‘woefully inadequate’. He added: ‘Nearly two-thirds (63 per cent) of adults with autism told us they do not have enough support to meet their needs. ‘This study gives us further evidence to demand that more vital support is put in place.’
Two troops for every civil servant in Britain’s defence ministry: “Britain has more military bureaucrats for every active serviceman than any of its Nato allies, it can be disclosed. Figures obtained by the Daily Telegraph show that the 27 other western alliance countries, including the United States, all employ proportionately fewer civilians in their defence ministries. While Britain has just two active troops for every civil servant in the Ministry of Defence, France has almost five, Spain has almost eight and several smaller countries have many more. The MoD employs 85,730 civil servants. Separate figures showed that the MoD spent more than £61 million on public relations last year – enough to pay the annual wage bill for 3,656 new privates in the Army. The Conservatives last night accused Bob Ainsworth, the Defence Secretary, of running a “bloated administration” while troops in Afghanistan faced equipment shortages. The bureaucracy figures will put pressure on Mr Ainsworth to divert funds to the front line or cut the MoD’s budget by reducing the number of officials in his department.”
Obama rudely twists the lion’s tail: “Barack Obama, as my Examiner colleague Byron York has noted, has been snubbing British Prime Minister Gordon Brown. This strikes me as highly regrettable and foolish in the extreme. Does Obama have some gripe against the British related to his Kenyan colonial heritage? If so, it’s time to get over it. Britain has been by and large an exemplary ally. It is one of the few nations in the world with a significant out-of-area military capacity, it maintains constructive ties with its former colonies through the Commonwealth, it shares with us an Anglospheric heritage based on common law and individual freedom which is of priceless value.”